Until this morning everything was extremely confusing and fuzzy. Even the Infectious Disease specialist kept saying things like, "This is odd" and "This is very strange". Jack just didn't fit the symptoms of anything they could think of. Not what we wanted to hear.
This morning, though, they did an ultrasound on Jack's stomach and found small perforations on his spleen, and possibly a few on his liver. This finally signalled one thing -- cat scratch fever. Yep, it's not just a Ted Nugent song... apparently this extremely rare infection can hit just about anybody. After some initial research, here's the bottom line on cat scratch fever:
- No link between cat scratches and the usual symptoms (fever, fatigue, headache, swollen lymph nodes, red areas on skin) until the 1950s. Even then, they had pinned it on the wrong bacteria, and not until very recently was bartonella finally singled out as the culprit.
- It is usually spread from kittens and not adult cats (our cats are more than 6 years old).
- For some reason the West coast has an abundance of cats with the bacteria, with 40% or more of kittens carrying bartonella.
- Transmission to humans is extremely random and rare. In the words of the Infectious Disease specialst this morning, "A cat could carry the bacteria and scratch 19,000 people. One person would get cat scratch disease. And we don't know why." Because of the rarity, no studies have been possible to examine which antibiotics might be effective.
- Even though there is seemingly a link between cat scratches and symptoms, no evidence of the bacteria has ever been found on the claws of cats -- only in their blood. It's possible that the disease actually gets transmitted by fleas or ticks, but it remains a mystery. Jack never had any visible scratches on him over the summer, so who knows... fleas or ticks may be the real cause after all.
Weird, huh? The human body almost always fights off the infection with no long-term effects, but we were given two antibiotics for Jack anyway. The doc admitted that they are "guessing" at which medicines really work on bartonella, since not enough people get it to even make formal studies possible.
I told the doc I would search the PubMed database tonight for more info, and he perked up and said I would discover that most of the papers on the subject were written by... you guessed it, Texas Children's Hospital. Were we in the right place or what?
We are soooooo glad to be home -- last night was pretty rough for Jamie, trying to get Jack to sleep in a strange place while he had an IV stuck in his hand. It's impossible to explain to a 14-month-old what's going on. At least he'll never remember any of this!
Thank you all for your prayers. We are looking forward to a healthy, fun-filled and relatively boring autumn. :)